The Sumerians were one of the earliest urban societies to emerge in the world, in Southern Mesopotamia more than 5000 years ago. They developed a writing system whose wedge-shaped strokes would influence the style of scripts in the same geographical area for the next 3000 years. Eventually, all of these diverse writing systems, which encompass both logophonetic, consonantal alphabetic, and syllabic systems, became known as cuneiform. It is actually possible to trace the long road of the invention of the Sumerian writing system. For 5000 years before the appearance of writing in Mesopotamia, there were small clay objects in abstract shapes, called clay tokens, that were apparently used for counting agricultural and manufactured goods. Subsequently, the ancient Mesopotamians stopped using clay tokens altogether, and simply impressed the symbol of the clay tokens on wet clay surfaces. You can read more about the previous example at www.metmuseum.org. Related Links Sumerian Language Page.